Three US senators–Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)–have introduced a bill that bans state right-to-work laws.
The bill entitled Protecting Workers and Improving Labor Standards repeals section 14(b) of the Taft Hartley Act which gives states the authority to pass right-to-work laws.
To be clear, right-to-work laws have nothing to do with guaranteeing a job or protecting a person’s right to a job.
The purpose of so-called right-to-work laws has always been to weaken unions by limiting their funding.
“So-called right-to-work laws give corporations the ability to trample workers’ rights and dismantle unions. I refuse to let that happen,” said Sen. Brown. “At a time when Americans are working harder and earning less for the time they put in, we should be making it easier for workers to raise their voices and bargain for better wages and safer working conditions. Right to work is really right to work for less.”
Instead of protecting people’s right to work, these state laws protect free riders who enjoy the benefits and protections of a union-negotiated collective bargaining agreement but don’t want to pay union dues or a fair-share fee to help defray the cost of union representation.
The Economic Policy Institute reports that the impact of right–to-work laws is clear–workers in states that have right-to-work laws are paid 3.1 percent less than their counterparts in non-right-to-work states.
That means that when you take into account all the variables including cost-of-living differences among states, the average worker in a right-to-work state makes $1558 less a year than the average worker in a state that doesn’t have right-to-work laws.
Twenty-eight states have made it harder for workers to have a union by passing right-to-work laws. Sen. Gillibrand said that by making it harder for workers to have a union, those states have lowered wages.
“More and more states are passing harsh laws that make it harder for workers to negotiate for better wages and better treatment. Over the last few decades, this has done enormous damage to our country’s middle class and the communities where they live,” said Sen. Gillibrand. “The Protecting Workers and Improving Labor Standards Act would block so-called state ‘right-to-work’ laws, which have been used to systematically attack and weaken workers’ hard-earned right to have a voice in the workplace and negotiate as a group with their employers. When unions are weak, corporations have enormous negotiating power over their workers, and can keep wages so low that their full-time employees are living in poverty. It’s time to stand up for our workers and push back.”
Sen. Warren said that right-to-work laws have lowered labor standards and the that impact of those lower labor standards will be a topic of discussion during the negotiations on revising the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
“The (US) is in the middle of renegotiating NAFTA, which was a bad deal for American workers,” said Sen. Warren. “If we want to protect workers and expect a level playing field in international trade deals, we need to start at home – and that means banning states from imposing restrictions that prevent workers from joining together to fight for their future.”
In addition to Warren, Gillibrand, and Brown, other senators have signed on as co-sponsors of the Protect Workers and Improve Labor Standards Act. They are Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.).
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) said that he plans to introduce similar legislation in the House of Representatives.
“States with ‘right-to-work’ provisions have a stated goal of taking away jobs from other states by weakening unions and therefore lowering wages, only by ending so-called ‘right-to-work’ nationwide can we stop this race to the bottom. That’s why I have introduced legislation in the House five times over the past decade to end ‘right-to-work’ laws nationwide, and in 2016 secured 48 House cosponsors,” said Rep. Sherman. “There has never been a more critical time to pass this legislation because working families need a raise.”